There I stood poised at the precipice. Two roads diverged. Would I take the path less traveled or the one made in China? It was Cub Scout Pinewood Derby time and I didn’t own a set of wood chisels. So I found myself in the tool aisle of my local hardware store with my 7-year-old son. There on the shelf were two sets of chisels by the same manufacturer, nearly identical but for a few exceptions. One trio of chisels had bright orange handles and a price around $10. The other had amber handles, a “Made in USA” logo, and a price nearly three times what the set made in China cost.
I picked both of them up and showed them to my son, asking, “What’s the difference between these two sets of tools? What makes this one cost nearly three times what the other does?” He looked them over and then stared at me, knowing what was coming before saying with a half-roll of his eyes, “The USA ones are almost $30 and have yellowy handles. Duh, Dad.”
I am not sure how much of the ensuing lecture he listened to as I covered the advantages of buying American, but I am pretty sure my diatribe morphed from my voice into a trumpeting Charlie Brown teacher sound. “Putting Americans to work by wha whaaaa wha whaaaaa bolstering the economy whaaaaa whaaaaa pride whaa whaaaaa quality.”
But hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Kids can only absorb so much in one shot. And the same holds true for buying American. Listen, I am as patriotic as the next capitalist. When presented the option, as long as my bank account isn’t going to protest too much I’ll gladly go with the American-made product. Like those chisels. Damn right I bought the ’Merican ones!
But unless you always have that easy “A or B?” choice or you can afford to sometimes pay more for American-made, there are going to be times when you likely have to go with imported. But that’s OK. Support USA businesses when you can. Some is better than none. If we all start doing it one drop in the time, the tide of American manufacturing will rise before you know it. (And no, that’s not some veiled hippie-dippie warning against global warming. Damn hippies.)
Anyway, here are some American products I have bought, love, use every day, and will pass along to my children. I can’t think of anything of foreign make I can say the same about with the exception of my Swiss watch.
Nokona Ball Gloves
Nokona gloves are completely made in the USA. While they are more expensive than the import crap you find in lower-end stores, they last a lifetime. I know every time I play catch with my kids and see them holding out that Nokona glove I feel like I have done them right.
Knives are individual, and not everybody prefers a big, chunky handle and heavy blade like my daily carry Benchmade, but whenever it gets dull I send it back for a factory edge, and one day one of my kids will do the same. Plus, the company makes slimmer models if that’s what you dig. Quality lasts forever.
Yeah, the Marshall pedal on the right is made in England (and is damn good in its own right), but I have used Dunlop USA wah-wah and mid-boost pedals for over three decades. I am sure if I crack open some of the modern ones there are some import capacitors and stuff like that, but I find the USA-made music equipment just has more soul and depth than many similar products from Asian manufacturers.
Sure, they offer an import line, but there is nothing like a USA-made Gibson Les Paul if you are a player. Some say you can’t tell. But you can tell.
Smith & Wesson
Whether or not you like firearms, if you have a mechanical mind you will appreciate the quality craftsmanship that goes into a good ol’ S&W revolver. I am sure the factory is all modernized and whatnot, but I like to think even the modern firearms like this 327PD were made on leather-belt-driven milling machines and drills. Thumbing the hammer back, closing the cylinder, ejecting spent casings . . . these all happen with a super-satisfying click that screams precision.
That’s my public service announcement for this month. Hopefully you absorbed a bit before my words turned into clicks and buzzes. And hey, if there’s a product you really love and stand behind, please let us know. We’ll collect them, and if we wind up sharing yours we’ll send you a fancy 4WOR license plate for your 4x4.